Palmer Lake to Crews

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The only remaining piece of the CRI&P in Colorado Springs. The old Rock Island heading east, with AT&SF bridge abutments in the distance. Photo by Mike Palmer.

In Colorado, between Denver and Pueblo, both the Denver and Rio Grande Western and Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe ran parallel single track lines, via Palmer Lake and Colorado Springs. The lines were built in the late 1800s.

For several decades now the two lines have been operating as a "Joint Line" with track sharing arrangements. In most segments the two lines run side-by-side, but in the Colorado Springs area they ran a few miles apart. The D&RGW ran on the west side of town, while the AT&SF ran through the center. (Burlington Route subsidiary Colorado & Southern also shared the AT&SF tracks, as it had abandoned its parallel route, further east, around World War II.)

Apparently Colorado Springs was one of several cities around the country that had a "No Whistling" ordinance, where trains were not allowed to sound the horn in the city limits. The AT&SF line had several grade crossings in town, and ran through some residential areas. Evidently train-car collisions happened too often, and the AT&SF was asked to "leave town". In 1972, the AT&SF did leave — it started running on the D&RGW on the west side.

The downtown AT&SF/C&S freight and passenger stations are still connected by a spur (the old main line), which connects with the active main lines a few miles south of town, near a place called Kelker. The tracks north of the stations were removed in 1972 for most of the 20-mile distance to Palmer Lake. (A short segment in North Colorado Springs is still in place, connected to the active Joint Line via a remnant of the old Chicago Rock Island & Pacific).

The photo below shows the Santa Fe station (now a business park). The station tracks ran through the area shown as a parking lot; the station is well-maintained but the new one story office buildings in front ruin the appearance. Most of the right-of-way through town is intact (not built on), and there is a jogging/bike path on part of it.

The photo above shows the old Rock Island heading east, with AT&SF bridge abutments in the distance. If you had been there in the late-60s, would you have believed the AT&SF track would disappear before the Rock Island? There is a junction/connector track east of the location of the old bridge, and the AT&SF track to the north (left side of bridge abutments, out of view) is still in place for a mile or so but in really poor shape.

The abandoned section of the ATSF ran from Palmer Lake to Monument, Pring, Sommers, Breed and into Colorado Springs. South of town, the abandonment extends from South Colorado Springs to Kelker, then a segment of the former D&RGW is abandoned from Kelker to Crews.

This article also includes pictures showing evidence of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific in Colorado Springs, CO.

Thanks to Mike Palmer for contributing information about this route.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

ATCHISON, TOPEKA & SANTA FE RAILWAY
Docket Number: 26767 Date: 8/13/1971 Section: 1(18)
Application for authority to abandon a line of railroad between Crews, MP 654.31 and Skinners, MP 657.08, a distance of 2.77 miles; between Kelker, MP 660.06 and Colorado Springs, MP 661.31, a distance of 1.25 miles; between Colorado Springs, MP 663.31 and MP 666.05, a dist. of 2.74 miles; and between Pikeview, MP 667,33 and Palmer Lake, MP 686.24, a. distance of 18.91 miles, a total dist. of 25.67 miles, in El Paso County, Colorado.
Length: 25.67 miles Citation:  

nice photos but on last pic of C&S AT&SF the trarks ran on back side of station

Dale nottelmann
Colorado springs, CO
11/22/2008

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Legend of Jesse James,he robbed more trains than banks,the end of the line would be palmer lake,he would not gone through the Greenland,Indians.Legend says they stashed 100,000,between Co.Springs and Monunent,No the put it at the end of the line.Palmer lake or Spruse mountain.I think spruce,you Know they were not caring shovels,Now its public.It is in the rocks.They would not have rode the canyons.Hard on a horse.They followed the trackes to Denver.

quinnmikelson
Colorado, CO
1/2/2010

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When the Air Force Academy was built the two lines ran on the future site and had to move the lines. They moved into the valley and made only one line which they share.

charles bole
cs, CO
5/6/2011

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is it legal to get the railroad track up for a project i have?

Anonymous
castle rock, CO
9/20/2012

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Not sure if commenter Bole has his facts entirely in line. The USAFA was built in the late 1950s and declared completed in 1962. The abandonment didn't occur until 10 years later. Therefore, no consolidation of routes was ever implemented as part of construction of the Academy. In fact, the south entrance route of the USAFA passes under a modern, yet vacant overpass, save the "New Santa Fe Trail" that runs most of the route of the abandoned main line in question all the way to Palmer Lake.

Steve Walden
Colorado Springs, CO
2/16/2015

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The Rock Island was intact from Colorado Springs to Limon when the railroad went belly up in 1980. The wooden trestle collapsed later that decade. The last trains to the drywall facility ran in 1999. I videotaped and photographed the scenic section many times.

James R. Jones
Aurora, CO
1/21/2016

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I am a land surveyor for El Paso County, Colorado. I need the right-of-way map for the abandoned Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe RR from Palmer Lake to Monument. Can anyone help me with this?

Rich Mariotti
Colorado Springs, CO
11/29/2016

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